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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Obadiah 7-8

7. All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.

7. Usque ad terminum expulerunt te omnes viri foederis tui; deceperunt te, praevaluerunt tibi, viri pacifici tui (viri pacis tuae;) viri panis tui posuerunt vulnus sub te: nulla est intelligentia in eo.

8. Shall I not in that day, saith the Lord, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?

8. Annon in die illa, dicit Jehova, perdam sapientes ex Edom? Et intelligentiam e monte Esau? (hoc est, e monte Seir.)

Here the Prophet expresses the manner in which God would punish the Idumeans: trusting in their confederacies, they despised God, as we have already had to observe. The Prophet now shows that it is in the power of God to change the minds of men, so that they who were their friends being suddenly inflamed with rage, would go forth to destroy the Idumeans. Seeing then that they regarded the Assyrians not only as a shield to them, but also as a defense against God himself, the Prophet here declares that when it would be God's purpose to punish them, there would be no need to send to a distance for agents or instruments to execute his vengeance; for he would arm the Assyrians themselves and the Chaldeans, inasmuch as he could turn the hearts of men as he pleased. We now see the Prophet's meaning; for he here takes away and shakes off the vain confidence of the Idumeans, that they might not harden themselves for being fortified by confederacies and for having powerful friends, for the Lord would turn friends into enemies. To thy border, he says, have they driven thee slch shilach is properly to send forth or to throw away; some render it, they have followed; as though the Prophet here spoke of the neighboring nations, and according to their view the meaning is, |However much thy neighbors may love thee, yet nothing will they show of this love, except that they will follow thee with feigned tears, when thine enemies shall lead thee away captive.| But this is a strained exposition, and corresponds not with the context. The Prophet then describes here, I doubt not, the change, such as would take place, that the Idumeans might know, that they trusted in vain in their power and defenses. The men of thy covenant, he says, have driven thee away; as though he said, |See what thou gainest in anxiously seeking the friendship of those who will yet be thy enemies; hadst thou remained quiet in thy clefts, it would have been much better for thee: but now thou runnest to Assyria and Chaldea, and this will be the cause of thy ruin. Hence the men of thy covenant shall banish thee to the border: but if thou hadst had no friendship nor commerce with them, thou mightest have lived safely in thy recesses, no one would have driven thee out: just, then, has been the reward of thy ambition, for having thus resorted to the Assyrians and Chaldeans.|

Continuing the same subject, the Prophet says, Deceived thee have the men of thy peace -- friends and confederates; for the Hebrews call those men of peace, who are connected together by any kind of alliance. The men then of thy peace, that is those whom thou thoughtest thou mightest trust, and on whom thou midst rely; -- these have deceived thee, even these have prevailed against thee, and oppressed thee through craft and treachery. The men of thy bread have placed under thee a wound: the men of bread were those who were guests or friends. Some give this rendering, |Who eat thy bread;| and it is an admissible interpretation, for the Assyrians and Chaldeans, as they were insatiable, had taken booty from the Idumeans; for whosoever then hunted for their friendship, must have brought them some gifts. Since then they thus sold their friendship, the Prophet rightly calls them the men of bread with regard to those whose substance and wealth they devoured. If then we take the men of bread in this sense, there is a probability in the meaning. But we may give another interpretation, as though he had said that they were guests and friends: these then have fixed under thee a wound, that is, they have been thy destruction, and that through guile and hidden artifices. When one attacks another openly, he who is attacked can avoid the stroke; but the Prophet says, that the Assyrians and Chaldeans would be perfidious to the Idumeans, so as to conquer them through treachery. Fix then shall they a wound under thee, as when one hides a dagger between the bed and the sheet, when a person intends to go to sleep. So also he says that a wound is placed underneath, when a feigned friend hides himself, that he may more easily hurt him whom he assails deceitfully and craftily.

He at length thus concludes, There is no intelligence in him. Here the Prophet no doubt derides in an indirect way the foolish confidence with which the Idumeans were blinded; for they thought themselves to be in a superlative degree wary, so that they had no reason to fear, as they could see afar off, and arrange their concerns with the utmost prudence. Since then they thought that they excelled in wisdom, and could not be surprised by any craft, the Prophet says here, that there would be in them no understanding.

But he immediately subjoins the reason, |Shall I not in that day, saith Jehovah, destroy, or extinguish, the wise from Edom?| While the Idumeans were prosperous, because they acted wisely, it was incredible that they could thus in a moment be overthrown: but the Prophet says, that even this was in the hand and power of God; |Can I not,| he says, |put an end to whatever there is of wisdom in the Idumeans? Cannot I destroy all their prudent men? This will I do.| We now then perceive the import of the words.

But this place deserves notice: the Prophet upbraids the Idumeans, and says, that their confederates and friends would prove their ruin, because they had conspired among themselves beyond what was just and right. When men thus mutually join together, there are none of them who do not greedily seek their own advantage; in the meantime, both sides are deceived; for God disconcerts their counsels, and blasts the issue, because they regard not the right end. And when the wicked seek friendships, they ever blend something that is wrong; they either try to injure the innocent, or they seek some advantage. All the compacts then which the ungodly and the despisers of God make with one another, have always something vicious intermixed; it is therefore no wonder that the Lord disappoints them of their hope, and curses their counsels. This is then the reason why the Prophet declares to the Idumeans, that those, whom they thought to be their best and most faithful friends, would be their ruin.

But here it may be objected and said, that the same thing happens to the children of God. For David, though he acted towards all with the utmost faithfulness and the greatest sincerity, yet complains, that the man of his peace and a friend had contrived against him many frauds,

Raised up his heel against me,' he says,
has the man of my peace;
eat bread together did I with him, and he with me,' (Psalm 41:9)

It was necessary also that this should have been the case with Christ himself. Now, if the children of God must be conformed to the image of Christ, what the Prophet says is no more than what applies to the whole Church, and to every member of it. This may appear strange at the first view; but a solution may be easily given: for while we strive to maintain peace with all men, though they may perfidiously, through treachery, oppress us, yet the Lord himself will succor us; and in the meantime, however hard may this trial be, we yet know that our patience is tried by God, that he may at last deliver us, so that we may confidently flee to him and testify our sincerity. But while the ungodly mutually cheat one another, while with wicked and sideway artifices they oppress and circumvent each other, while they cast forth their hidden virulence, while they turn peace into war, they know that their recompense is just and merited: they cannot flee to God, for their conscience restrains them. They indeed understand that they have deserved what the Lord has justly repaid them. It is then no wonder that the conspiracy in which the Idumeans trusted, when they made the Chaldeans their friends, should have been accursed; for the Lord turned to their ruin whatever they thought useful to themselves.

This then is the import of the whole, -- that if we wish not to be deceived, we must not attempt anything without an upright heart. Provided then we exceed not the limits of our calling, let us cultivate peace with all men, let us endeavor to do good to all men, that the Lord may bless us; but if it be his purpose to try our patience, he will be still present with us, though false friends try us by their treacheries, though we be led into danger by their malice, and be for a time trodden under their feet; if, on the contrary, we act with bad faith, and think that we have fortunate alliances, which have been obtained by wicked and nefarious artifices, the Lord will turn for our destruction whatever we think to be for our safety.

We must now notice what the Prophet says, Shall I not in that day destroy the wise from Edom? Though men be in many respects blind, whom God guides not by his Spirit, and on whom he shines not with his word, yet the worst blindness is, when men become inebriated with the false conceit of wisdom. When therefore any one thinks himself endued with understanding, so that he can perceive whatever is needful, and that he cannot be circumvented, his wisdom is insanity and extreme madness: it would indeed be better for us to be idiots and fools than to be thus inebriated. Since then the wise of this world are insane, the Lord declares that they will have no wisdom when the time of trial comes. God indeed permits the ungodly for a long time to felicitate themselves on account of their own acumen and counsels, as he suffered the Idumeans to go on prosperously. And there are also many at this day who felicitate themselves on their successes, and almost adore their own cunning. Who indeed can persuade the Venetians that there is anywhere consummate wisdom but among themselves, by which, forsooth, they surpass all others in deception? For no other reason do they, amidst many agitations, retain their own position, except that they seem to see farther into what is for their own advantages; nay, that kings in general stand, and continue safe amidst so many shakings, this they ascribe to their own wisdom: |Except I had looked well in this respect to my own affairs, except I had anticipated danger, and except I had foreseen it, it would have been all over as to my condition.| Thus they think within themselves: but the Lord at length infatuates them, that it may be evident, that this was not formerly said in vain to the Idumeans, Shall I not in that day, saith Jehovah, etc. and it was emphatically added, in that day: for the Prophet means, that it was no wonder that the Idumeans had been hitherto wary and adopted the best counsel; for it was not the Lord's purpose to deprive them of wisdom; but when the suitable time of vengeance came, he instantly took away whatever prudence there was in them; for it is indeed in God's hand to take away whatever there is either of understanding or of acuteness in men.

But we are warned by these words, that if we excel in understanding, we are not to abuse this singular gift of God, as we see the case to be with the ungodly, who turn to cunning whatever wisdom the Lord has bestowed on them. There is hardly one in a hundred to be found, who does not seek to be crafty and deceitful, if he excels in understanding. This is a very wretched thing. What a great treasure is wisdom? Yet we see that the world perverts this excellent gift of God; the more reason there is for us to labor, that our wisdom should be founded in true simplicity. This is one thing. Then we must also beware of trusting in our own understanding, and of despising our enemies, and of thinking that we can ward off any evil that may impend over us; but let us ever seek from the Lord, that we may be favored at all times with the spirit of wisdom, that it may guide us to the end of life: for he can at any moment take from us whatever he has given us, and thus expose us to shame and reproach.

When he says, from mount Esau, he means mount Seir, as I have already reminded you. But he meant to point out their whole country; for they were almost surrounded by mountains, and dwelt, as it is well known, in that Arabia which is called Patraea. It follows --

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